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Attempts to amend Census, Statistics Act hailed

by Staff reporter
03 Jul 2020 at 07:46hrs | Views
ATTEMPTS to amend the Census and Statistics Act have been hailed by an election watchdog as necessary to prevent the manipulation of electoral boundaries ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.

Government gazetted the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill of 2020 in June which seeks to amend the Census and Statistics Act (Chapter 10:29) to allow for the delimitation exercise to be conducted well before the 2023 polls.

The Bill seeks to ensure that the delimitation exercise creation of new electoral boundaries is conducted using census statistics as required by section 161 (1) of the Constitution and not the voters' roll as has been the case.

This will afford the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) ample time to delimit electoral boundaries in accordance with census data. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) argued that the amendment of the Census and Statistics Act is necessary given that current electoral boundaries are no longer representative of the voters with the last delimitation exercise conducted in 2008.

"The census is governed by legislation and can be easily amended without effecting changes to the Constitution,"Zesn chairperson Andrew Makoni said.

"The move to amend the Census and Statistics Act is consistent with calls by Zesn for the census to be moved backwards to address concerns around the process of delimiting electoral boundaries instead of delinking the delimitation exercise from the population census."

The Constitutional Amendment Bill had sought to remove the linkage between delimitation and population censuses.

"Delinking the delimitation of electoral boundaries from the population census would have affected democratic representation and raised suspicions about gerrymandering, a practice where electoral boundaries are manipulated in order to suit one political party's interests over its competitors' interests," Makoni added.

The last delimitation exercise was done ahead of the 2008 elections, conducted in terms of the old Constitution and based on the RegistrarGeneral voters' roll. The opposition then described the exercise as biased in favour of Zanu-PF.

Zec allocated 143 constituencies to communal lands and the remaining 67 to urban and peri-urban areas from the 210 contested seats.

The opposition parties queried the outcome, arguing this was a deliberate ploy by Zanu-PF to rig elections as it had, since independence, received its main support from rural areas.

Source - newsday